32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” t And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 
We are called to follow Jesus, to imitate Him, to become more and more like Him, that we may live and do as He did. That is the essence of discipleship. And that’s why Jesus’ words on the cross are so striking, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Would this have been my first words after being nailed to a cross? After having been abandoned, betrayed, falsely arrested, falsely accused, beaten, scourged, mocked, and ridiculed? After having carried the instrument of my execution up a hill in front of jeering crowds? After experiencing the pain of the nails, the wood, the lifting? Then to say, “Forgive them”? No, it would not be my first inclination.
But forgiveness is what this is all about. Jesus endured all of this for the sake of bringing forgiveness to the very people who were condemning, torturing and crucifying Him. He did it for the sake of bringing forgiveness to me. Even forgiveness for the grudges, resentment, and anger that so easily takes up residence in my heart at every slight and insult I receive from others.
The heart of Jesus is overflowing with forgiveness, and He would work that same heart in you and me. We see this of course in the prayer pattern He taught us to use: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We cannot pray that prayer, or meditate on these words of Jesus on the cross, while refusing to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
But just knowing we should forgive doesn’t necessarily give us the ability to forgive. And so we pray for grace. We pray that His forgiving grace from the cross would flow to us and through us, that we may be like Him in forgiving others.
Lord Jesus, I praise and thank you for your forgiveness so freely given even while you were hanging on the cross. Lead and empower me by your spirit, to be able to freely forgive those who have sinned against me.
What is the Word leading you to pray about today?
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